Genre: Thriller, Horror
Director: Bert I. Gordon
Starring: Richard Carlson, Susan Gordon, Lugene Sanders, Juli Reding
MST Season: 4
What's this? A Bert I. Gordon film without forced perspective giant animals? Don't worry folks! There are still plenty of superimposed shots to make us feel right at home! Like The Magic Sword, Tormented is a bit of a departure for "Mr. B.I.G." We're used to a certain type of Gordon movie on the show and now season four of MST has given us a one-two punch of his experimental period. If this isn't your cup of tea, don't fret since Beginning of the End will soon be up to bat in season five!
Tormented is a ghost story about Tom Stewart, a musician who is blackmailed by an ex-lover named Vi. Confronting her in a lighthouse, Vi falls over a railing and as she's clinging on for life begs Tom to help her. Tom has a Christian Bale Batman moment of "I'm not going to kill you but I don't have to save you" and he lets her fall to her death. Fearing being linked to her death, Tom covers it up and tries to go about his life with his new fiance, but soon finds himself being haunted by both his guilt and Vi's ghost.
It's a fairly interesting Telltale Heart meets supernatural story, as we watch a man's desire to free himself of a potential threat through questionable means and have it spiral out of control. Tormented is a not entirely unwatchable movie, though while we understand their motivations these characters lack sympathy. This is probably intentional, though if Tom were less cold-hearted and conniving his story would pack more oomph. Vi is hard to sympathize with because she's a life-wrecking bitch, which she continues to play into even in the afterlife. At that point she has the excuse of having been indirectly murdered to be cruel, but it more or less just comes off as her fucking with him to amuse herself.
There are a handful of good shots, but overall film is rather routinely made, with typical Bert I. Gordon special effects. It's not particularly suspenseful, though the story is strong enough to carry it at points. Tormented is a fun cheapie that could have been more with more time and effort put into it, though the movie is content with being bare minimum "fine" instead.
Our gang is faced with a movie that doesn't quite hurt all that much this week and in turn they seem to go easy on it. Tormented has a lot of silly aspects that are played up, such as special effects and slimeball characters, but for the most part they are content with letting the movie play out. Are they into the movie? Not quite. They pay attention to it, but they seem mostly indifferent. With a solid quantity of laughs meeting the watchability of the film the Tormented theater segments are constantly engaging and quite funny.
The host segments have some fun parodying the film as well, which feature Servo and Crow posing as disembodied heads ("JOEL ROBINSON KILLED US!"), as well as contemplating whether or not they should save Joel when he finds himself dangling from the rafters. A tad lacking is a "go nowhere" segment where Joel and the Bots therapeutically contemplate sending popular singers over the lighthouse rail. A mostly okay invention exchange sees the Aunt Catherine Wheel and a Drinking Jacket.
On the surface Tormented doesn't seem to offer that much. The movie is okay, the riffing is above average, and the host segments are fine. The episode doesn't stand apart from the crowd though there is a good episode here that's easy to look over. I actually think I more or less just remember the episode for the memorable movie itself than the episode around it, but for me I'm going to say it's a solid base hit.
Tormented torments us from Rhino's Volume 11 release. Picture is good, audio is as well. Special features include a roundtable retrospective with Tormented cast and crew, including director Bert I. Gordon, his daughter and co-star Susan Gordon (who unfortunately passed on since this interview), and character actor Joe Turkel. Turkel's colorful charisma carries the conversation, while Mr. Gordon mostly relays stories about how he got started and how his films are made. Susan is mostly silent, though she does talk about how she became a child actor and how it affected her.
Also featured here are a set of MST Hour wraps and the film's theatrical trailer.